A sermon by Rev Richard Keith on Psalm 61 on Sunday 29 March 2020
When would you need a rock that is higher than yourself? The answer is simple: when the floods of life come upon you. When the flood is up to your ankles, you think you can walk through it. When the flood is up to your knees, you might try to drive through it in your 4WD. When the flood is up to your waist, you might imagine you can swim across it, though I wouldn’t recommend it. But what will you do when the flood is up to your chin? Stand up on tippy toes? What will do you when it is up to your eyeballs? What you need is a rock higher than yourself, a safe place, a refuge above the floods but which is not so high that you cannot climb up upon it. Those are the times when we need to pray, as David did in Psalm 61, Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
The trouble with the floods of life is that they come so unexpectedly. They come in a letter from a distant relative living overseas. They come in an email throwing back at you words that you said that you will now live to regret. They come sitting in a chair in the doctor’s surgery. They come with the news that we all have to stay in our homes. The floods of life threaten to overwhelm you, to undermine you, to sweep away all that you have built, to leave your future scarred forever to expose all the false assumptions of our comfortable lives. They come so suddenly that there is often not time to climb too high. They are the times when we need to pray as David did in Psalm 61, Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
Psalm 61 is the cry for help from a man in deep distress. He feels like he is far from home, because his cry comes from the ends of the earth. He feels like he has been brought to the limits of his physical resources, because his heart is faint. What does he ask of the Lord? Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. The place of safety in the floods of life that will not just get his chin above water but will place his feet where they are secure, so that he will not be swept away. He bases his plea on the fact that the Lord has not let him down before. The Lord has been his place of refuge, the one he can turn to when all others let him down. His strong tower, his powerful defender when his enemies attack him and his friends forsake him.
I don’t know about you, but I think that we could do with a refuge now. A source of hope in troubled times. And I reckon that a lot of people agree with me. If they didn’t, I think they changed their mind last Wednesday, wasn’t it, that a coronavirus case is in our own town. Not in Sydney. Not in Melbourne. But close to home. This isn’t a Chinese problem or an Italian problem. This will test us. It will test our patience. It will test our courage. And it will test the source of our hope. It feels like the flood waters have come. Not a swollen Murray river that will peak and return to normal in a month. But for a few months to go this is our new normal. Like David in Psalm 61 we can feel like we are far from home, far from that comfortable normality that we used to know. Like David we can feel stretched to our limit. And so like David we need to plead to the Lord that he would lead us to the rock that is higher than I. Not something lower than me that cannot help. And not something too far out of reach. Something high enough, just a little higher than me that I can still reach and that can save me from the flood.
Jesus Christ, the stone the builder rejected who has become the cornerstone, is the answer to David’s prayer in Psalm 61. He is my rock, my safe place, my deliverer. He is the one who saves me from myself. He is the one who gives me a future free from regret and from all my half-hearted good intentions. He is the one who, when the floods of life come and sweep all before them, will leave me still standing with all that is worth having and keeping.
But he is not so high above me that I cannot reach him. He is not so exalted and transcendent that I cannot attain to the safety he provides. For he came in human form. He came to my level. A person of flesh and blood. A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. As Hebrews chapter 2 verse 18 says,
Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
We may trust in other things. We may put our hope in other resources. Our money. Our fertile farms. Our comfortable retirement. But many of them are only sand, not a rock to stand upon that will last. Some of them feel like rock, but they are no higher than ourselves. Trusting them is no better than trusting in ourselves and no use in the raging flood. And the rest are out of reach, impractical, beyond our hope of attaining. Jesus Christ, in the floods of life is the rock that is higher than I. In him and only in him will I find safety.
Make Psalm 61 your prayer today.
Hear my cry, O God. Listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you. I call as my heart grows faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
And let us stand firm on that rock, Jesus, who has never yet let us down.